Sweden, kingdom in northern Europe, occupying most of the eastern and southern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula.
Land and climate
Sweden has an area of 173,604 sq mi (449,750 sq km). It is bounded on the west and north by Norway; on the northeast by Finland; on the east and south by the Baltic Sea; and on the southwest by the Öresund, Kattegat, and Skagerrak, the narrows linking the Baltic with the North Sea. At its northernmost, it lies within the Arctic Circle and includes part of Lapland. Sweden may be divided into four main regions: Norrland, the northern two-thirds of the country; the central lowlands; southern Sweden; and Skåne. Barren heights, high lakes, peat bogs, and great forests of spruce, pine, and larch cover most of the thinly populated Norrland. Sweden's rivers and lakes make up nearly 10% of the country's area and some of the largest of its lakes are in the central lowlands. Most of the people live in this area and it is also the site of the country's two largest cities, Stockholm and Göteborg. Southern Sweden is a fertile, coastal lowland region, and Skåne is the low-lying agricultural region in the extreme south. Northern Sweden has long, cold winters and brief, cool summers. The south enjoys longer summers and milder winters. The capital of the country is Stockholm.
The population is almost entirely Swedish, except for a minority of Lapps in the north. The official language is Swedish, and almost everyone is Lutheran.
Sweden has extensive forests, rich deposits of iron ore, abundant hydroelectric power, and enough good farmland to be nearly self-sufficient in food production. Main exports are machinery, iron, steel, paper, wood pulp, timber, and motor vehicles. Sweden enjoys one of the highest living standards in the world with relatively low unemployment and extensive social services, including free education, retirement pensions, and comprehensive medical care. An economic downturn in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s partly eroded Swedish prosperity, slowing economic growth and leading to unemployment, inflation and the relinquishment of some social achievements.
Mention of the Swedes is first recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus in the 1st century A.D. In the 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Vikings from Sweden known as Varangians pioneered trade routes through Russia as far as the Black Sea. Throughout the Middle Ages, the history of the Swedes was tied to that of Norway and Denmark. The Danes, dominant in the Kalmar Union of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, which was founded in 1397, were driven out of Sweden in 1523. In the 17th century, GustavuslI (Gustavus Adolphus) made Sweden a leading European power, but the rise of Russia in the 18th century checked Swedish ambitions. In 1809 the monarchy became constitutional; a new constitution took effect in 1975. Sweden took no part in World War I or World War II. The Social Democrats have been the predominant political party through much of Sweden's 20th-century history, architects of the country's social welfare system and its policy of neutrality. Sweden opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam and in 1969 recognized North Vietnam, thereby marking the high point of a period of strained relations with the United States. Swedish domestic politics have been free of violence with the sole exception being the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme (1986), a murder that remains unsolved. In 1995 Sweden joined the EU. At present the country does not wish to join the European Monetary Union.